Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My mom is cool like that

I know I am pretty lucky that I have such a great relationship with my mother. And this is not only because I am aware that many people cannot claim this reality or would never want it, but also because my life has taken me down paths that are far from the future my parents imagined for me. 

Rather than beat around the bush, I'll just be clear: I am no longer an active member of the church to which the rest of my family is devotedly faithful.  To most of the world, this isn't such a shocking experience. Commonplace, in fact, for many families. Except that the religion which formed the foundation of the first 19 years of my life is Mormonism. And if you're not a Mormon, then you probably won't understand the difference.  But if you are, then you will understand why this was a very significant alteration of my life and why I profess gratitude for the closeness my mother and I share. 

In truth, the early years of this new direction were difficult for my family. But I guess that is a whole other story, and likely one that I won't share publicly. But suffice it to say, the fact that my mother and I came out on the other side with a genuine friendship, in addition to mutual respect, is one of life's little miracles. I've always believed that miracle was indisputably aided by the opportunity we forged to work together closely as co-owners of our Curves clubs. However, I suppose family relationships just as easily have been destroyed in joint business ventures. 

What I do know is that my mother is a loving, kind person, and she soon deemed her relationship with me, her daughter, to be more important than reiterating pious disapproval.  Another important piece of our happy little puzzle is that my choices were not born of a desire to rebel. I was not trying to upset my parents, rather I wanted them to understand and love me in spite of our differences. I would venture a guess that I am not your typical "ex-Mormon" because I still appreciate the culture, value the traditions, and even respectfully attend my niece and nephews' baptisms and the occasional Relief Society activity (the fun ones, tee hee). Even though I don't go to church and say my prayers and read scriptures, I am still a good person and live my life with values remarkably similar to those I learned in my parents' home. Which probably makes it easier for my mother to accept. 

This whole introduction grew more sentimental than intended--I was planning on just telling you an amusing anecdote from Chicago illustrating my mom's "cool" factor.  But I like what I've written, so it stays. And here is the story:

We spent a few days touring Chicago with my cousin and her mom (my mom's sister). Rachel is only 20 days older than me, and we were very close as children. I think she grew out of our relationship before I did, and these days we only communicate a few times a year, but when we do we still laugh about our old inside jokes and childhood memories. 
It's not my place to describe the private details of my cousin's life, but maybe you can draw your own conclusions from these facts: 1. She is single and does not plan to have children. 2. She lives in West Hollywood, CA. 3. She also no longer attends church.  From what I understand, the tension with her own mother resulting from her personal choices has never quite lifted, and sadly, arguments about it often ensue.

In Chicago, Rachel made plans one night to meet up with a girlfriend who lives in the area. She invited me to go, but I was hesitant to accept because a) I was exhausted and would have been just as happy to read my novel in the comfy hotel bed, and b) I did not want to risk accepting a "courtesy invite" and be an unwanted third wheel.  While the plans were being laid for where/when to meet, Rachel checked to make sure that her mom wouldn't be upset by her going out--a thoughtful gesture I thought, since this was kind of a mother-daughter trip.  The moms were getting ready for bed anyway, so she gave her consent. 

The next thing I know, I am hearing the louder half of an argument going on in the bathroom, and it seems that maybe my aunt is not as comfortable with the idea as she first let on. This is about the time that I decided to go, because I thought it might help if Rachel wasn't going out into Chicago at night all alone. My mom was a bit surprised when she noticed I was dressed and grabbing my purse, but not alarmed or upset.  I said jokingly, "Yeah, someone's got to keep Rachel out of trouble!"

During our exhilarating run along the Chicago River the next morning, Rachel explained that her mother was upset upon learning that she was going to a bar. We both laughed at the thought: "where else would you go to meet friends at 11:00pm?"  Apparently her mother wasn't able to sleep until we returned. I can't say I disagree with Rachel's frustration over her mother's protectiveness when they are together (Rachel has taken to getting a hotel room when she visits home for this reason), since I'm sure my aunt doesn't suffer from insomnia every other night of the week. You know, when Rachel is at home in L.A. with her friends...  I assure you, a few cocktails at a bar is quite a tame evening. 

We also mused at the possibility that Rachel's mom was being extra critical because my mom (her big sis) was there. No one wants to look like a bad parent in front of her own sister, and my aunt might operate under the mistaken assumption that I am some sort of righteous individual who would never stay out late drinking with guys I don't know and didn't want my mom to view Rachel as a bad influence on me. It was only natural for Mama Bear to emerge and present the audience with a convincing case of her disapproval.

After enjoying our free breakfast at the concierge lounge (I never want to stay in a hotel without access to this glorious feature again!), my mom quietly asked me how our evening went and if we had, in fact, gone to a bar.  I responded this way: "Well, yeah, that's kind of the only place that would be open that time of night." My mother responded this way: "That's what I was thinking!" She proceeded to say that she knows we are both grown women who can take care of ourselves, and she's not sure what Auntie was so worked up about (that is my pithy summary, not her words). 

My heart swelled with pride, knowing that my mom is cool like that. 

My cool mom and me
Chicago ~ October 2010

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